Thousands of university students in the streets throwing rocks and bricks at the police. An angry anti-war protest from the late sixties? No, a drunken panty raid from a simpler time. Here’s Stu Levitan with the details on tonight’s Madison in the Sixties.
It’s just after midnight Sunday morning on October 8 and more than a thousand beer-and-hormone-soaked young men are out on State Street, celebrating the football team’s victory over Indiana and delighting in a twenty-year-old German model in a tight blue dress playing toreador in the street. Suddenly a group of celebrants set up a ladder, which their leader ascends; he leads the crowd in cheers and college songs—until he suddenly shouts, “Let’s go on a panty raid!”
The crowd becomes a mob and surges toward the new Lowell Hall; the horde chants “We want panties” as a group mounts the first floor roof and breaks a window before being driven off by a broom-wielding janitor. They’re similarly thwarted at Ann Emery Hall. The mob fills State and Langdon Streets, pushing cars and even rocking an unmarked police car; some toss stones and cups of beer at the lawmen. After a large firecracker breaks a squad car radiator, police bring out (but don’t use) tear gas and fire hoses, and the crowd disperses. Police make five arrests for disorderly conduct—two students; two locals, ages 18 and 24; and a Truax Field airman. Charges against two are eventually dropped; three forfeit bail. Five students, not all of whom were arrested, are placed on disciplinary probation and/or suspended for the spring semester, and ordered to apologize by letter to Police Chief Wilbur Emery. UW officials reaffirm a 1959 policy statement that any student in a mob, regardless of what he or she does, is fully responsible for all of the mob’s actions and is subject to discipline.
And the panty raid of the decade, as Beer bars, women’s dorms, and warm moonlit nights make for a bad brew October 13–14, 1962, the weekend of the Badgers big game with Notre Dame. On each night, about three thousand young men go on panty raids that become near riots—the worst campus disturbances since the panty raid of May 1952, when police made twenty-one arrests.
It starts at bar time, a quarter to one on Saturday morning. As the six beer bars in the lower three blocks of State Street empty and the suds-soaked crowd builds, the men’s thoughts turn to coeds, who were forced to return to their rooms by the 12:30 am curfew.
The boys make their way to the new Allen Hall on the north corner of State and Frances Streets, calling for bras and panties. “We want silk!” the lusty fellows bellow, and several young women oblige, waving and dangling undergarments from their windows. Excitement builds.
Soon, a car driving through the packed intersection knocks down a boy. Then a policeman clubs a student. Flying beer bottles break windows at the Madison Inn and Allen Hall before the mob moves on to Lowell Hall, where custodian Merlin Marti, cut by flying glass from a broken door, opens the fire hose to hold the students back. Things are now out of control.
The mob blocks traffic all the way to the Capitol Square, bouncing cars and cavorting in the intersections. Students throw cans and bottles, even rocks and stones, at the police. Seven are injured, including three policemen and a fireman.
The police make thirteen arrests, including the students who roll a parked car off the end of Lake Street and into the water, pushing it thirty feet from shore. Thankfully, the Notre Dame student sleeping in the Chevy’s backseat wakes up in time to escape injury.
Early Sunday morning, after quarterback Ron Vander Kelen and All-American end Pat Richter lead the Badgers to a 17–8 victory over the Irish, it starts again. But this time police are ready, and twenty officers are on the scene by midnight. With their active use of billy clubs and the paddy wagon, property damage is down but arrests are up—34 young men are taken away, mainly for getting in drunken, bloody brawls.
On Monday afternoon, the faculty committee on student conduct summarily suspends twenty students, reinstating fifteen of them the next day. A handful of students pay fines of $105, but almost all have their charges dismissed by a sympathetic Criminal and Traffic Court judge, William Buenzli.
“I can realize from my own experience in the past that this was a case of your being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he says.